Doing it my way
There is no one correct way to bowl. There is a strong relationship between bowling better and having more fun. We all need to improve both as skips and as team-mates. These ideas have worked for me. I try to learn new skills every season.
To begin… It’s easy as 1, 2, 3
- Step 1 – finding the line
- Step 2 – Laying the bowls on the line consistently
- Step 3 – Judging the weight
Finding the line
The first thing every bowler must do is find the line that will deliver the bowl to the jack (the center line).
- If there are trial ends, use them to find your line.
- To be able to adjust, you must choose a reference point. I start with the rink markers and adjust accordingly. If the bowl is too narrow, I take a wider reference point. If the bowl is too wide, I take less grass and a narrower reference point. In either case, I continue to adjust until I find the line where my bowl will finish on the center line. My reference point will be in most cases a spot on the backboards. From that point onwards I will use that spot on the backboards as my target when I deliver my next bowls.
- I will always pass this information on to my team-mates. In most cases, while their line may not be identical to mine, it will be close to mine.
- Factors that will affect the line are the type of bowl, the size of the bowl, right hand vs. left hand, differences in technique, differences in weight, etc.
- Every player is trying to find the correct line. Quite often you can find the line faster by watching the bowls of your team-mates and of your opponents.
- When you find the line, it’s important to share this information with your team-mates.
- Sometimes during a game the conditions will change and you will have to find a new line When this happens you re-adjust your reference point until you find the new line.
- When the skip asks you to draw to a spot not on the center line, you use your reference point to determine the new line to take. For example, if you are required to deliver a bowl (forehand) to a spot left of the jack (right-handed bowlers), you will deliver the bowl to a new target spot to the left of your reference point. Or, if your skip asks for your backhand shot, you will have to take more grass and aim outside your reference point.
- It is clear that to find the correct line players you must adjust and continue to adjust, and, that a reference point is needed from which to make these adjustments.
- It is not uncommon to hear a player say that he has lost his line or that he can’t find his line. When this happens his team-mates should help him find the line, and, the player should continue to adjust until he succeeds even if this takes a few ends. Your team-mates will cover for you while you make the adjustments, but at some point they will need you to make the shots. This is all part of being a good team-mate.
Step 2 – Laying the bowls on the line consistently
What good is it if you know the line but can’t lay the bowls down on the line! The answer is obvious. You must be able to lay the bowls down on the correct line for them to end up where they are wanted. This takes a control that most of us do not have. Usually I bowl great when I deliver 3 out of 4 bowls along the line I want; I bowl well when I lay down 2 out of 4 properly and I bowl poorly when I am less successful in laying down the bowls on the correct line.
- Take a position on the mat, and, with some exceptions, always take the same position each time. You do this so that you can adjust from a set reference point.
- Turn your feet so that they are pointing at your target (spot on the backboards). Alternatively, your shoulders should be perpendicular to the line from your feet to the target.
- You turn your feet each time you adjust until you locate the correct line. Then you always point your feet at the target so that you are always facing the target.
- The correct delivery will have your arm follow a line parallel to your feet as you step and along the line towards your target (spot on the backboards).
- Work on your delivery until you can deliver the bowls like this repeatedly without thought.
- There are times when a bowl is sitting on your line. Moving your feet on the matt in these cases may allow you to take a new line to come close around that bowl or to come just inside that bowl to achieve the desired position (rather than changing hands).
- Get help from your coach if you are having trouble laying down your bowls along your aim line.
Step 3 – Judging the weight
I don’t know of any technique to help a bowler learn how to deliver a bowl with the correct pace consistently. Perhaps this is the part of the game that sets apart the good players from the average. However, it is clear:
- To bowl well you must be able to adjust your pace (weight) to each surface, each condition and each shot required (by your skip).
- The key word is adjust! You must continue to adjust until you can deliver your bowls with the correct pace comfortably.
- Since at least 80% of your shots will be draw shots, you must find the weight where you can draw near the jack with consistency.
- The more you practice and the more you play, the faster you learn to adjust to the pace of the greens and the more consistent you become.
I practice these 3 steps every time I bowl, in practice and in matches. In truth most bowlers do not like to practice and do not practice regularly. The alternative, while not ideal, is to practice during your matches.